Leadership Updates

Leadership Updates

At John Jay College, an institution focused on exploring justice in all its many dimensions, we aim to create an atmosphere where every member of our community feels informed, respected, and empowered. To increase campus awareness of our leadership’s goals and concerns, we are sharing an overview of topics presented and discussed at the regular meetings of the Leadership Council, a group of leaders and informal advisors to the President from departments and offices across campus.

March 2020: Coronavirus and Distance Learning updates
President Mason shared John Jay’s plans for transitioning to distance learning and telecommuting, based on guidance from the CUNY Chancellor and the NY city and state officials. She acknowledged that there are many open questions about academic policies in this new distance-learning environment, and that CUNY is working through these issues with all the colleges. What will happen with Commencement is an important question that is on the minds of all our seniors and our faculty and staff, and CUNY is discussing this as well. We all want to do something to recognize the tremendous accomplishments of our graduating seniors, and will update everyone once we have a CUNY-wide plan in place.

Chief Information Officer Joe Laub provided a technology update about the technology tools that the John Jay community has access to remotely, including Blackboard, CUNYfirst, and Microsoft Office 365, as well as Zoom and Dropbox. Blackboard offers after-hours support as well. Thanks to donations and purchases, the College has access to over 100 laptops and tablets. Students who need laptops or internet connectivity should contact the DoIT Helpdesk at 212-237-8200 or helpdesk@jjay.cuny.edu.

Interim EMSA VP Ellen Hartigan shared that they are moving forward with hosting a virtual Town Hall for the John Jay community on April 7, and will communicate more details once they have the virtual plans in place. Associate Provost Allison Pease shared that the work on the Strategic Plan is continuing, as they prepare to share the draft Plan with the community.

Members of the Leadership Council shared their individual perspectives and experiences with distance learning, and navigating a remote working environment. President Mason emphasized how important it is to find balance in this difficult new reality, and that there are resources to help us.


Previous Updates

February 2020: Strategic Planning

President Mason thanked everyone for their continued participation and support during the Strategic Planning process. Associate Provost Allison Pease, designated chair of the Strategic Planning Subcommittee (SPS), shared draft documents outlining the objectives and key progress indicators to support each of the four goals in the College’s Strategic Plan that were shared previously.

Dr. Pease led the Council members through small group discussions to provide input on the key progress indicators to assess how we are doing with the goals and objectives we’ve outlined.

President Mason also shared an exciting new opportunity for diversity training offered by the Racial Equity Institute, an alliance of trainers and leaders who help individuals and organizations to “challenge patterns of power and grow equity.” The Institute helps leaders to “proactively understand and address racism in their organization.” More information is on their website.

January 2020: Budget & Fundraising Updates, Strategic Plan, Values Statement

President Mason provided a budget update at the President’s Leadership Council meeting by sharing that the College has been able to reduce the current budget deficit to $4.27 million, with the help of cost-cutting measures across all the divisions of the College, as well as additional resources from CUNY Central. The final gap can be closed with a hiring freeze through the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2020. This will not impact the previously approved faculty searches or the two current VP searches. President Mason acknowledged the challenges we face with our current budget reality and thanked everyone for their continued collaboration and support.

VP Robin Merle reported that we received an unprecedented grant of $635,500 from the ECMC Foundation to support our LEAP (Linking Experience, Academics, and Practice) program for the next five years. The Foundation focuses on providing support for programs that improve educational outcomes, especially among underserved populations. Our LEAP program provides John Jay students–second-semester freshman through sophomore year–with customized major and career exploration, intensive academic advisement, and access to experiential learning opportunities such as campus-based leadership, community service, and internships. VP Merle also announced that Clara Wu Tsai, Founding Partner of the Reform Alliance, will be honored at the Educating for Justice Gala 2020 on May 5. She will receive the Champion for Justice Award for her passionate and dedicated efforts around criminal justice reform.

Associate Provost Allison Pease, designated chair of the Strategic Planning Subcommittee (SPS), shared draft documents outlining the objectives to support each of the four goals in the College’s Strategic Plan that were shared previously:

  1. Educate and support undergraduate and graduate students at every step of their John Jay journey
  2. Create and advance knowledge in support of justice education, public awareness, and civic engagement
  3. Embody and promote our values of equity, diversity, and inclusion
  4. Improve and expand financial resiliency, operational efficiency, and the College’s sustainability


Dr. Pease led the Council members through small group discussions to provide input on the objectives and how the objectives can be revised to better represent the work being done in each area of the College to advance these goals. 

VP Laura Ginns shared the final version of the John Jay College Values Statement which was initially developed by a subcommittee of members of the Leadership Council and revised with feedback from the campus community. This was one of the recommendations from the external Climate Review report that was received last fall. The Values Statement has been posted prominently on the website below the Mission Statement of the College.

President Mason also shared a pride point when John Jay shone brightly at the World Economic Forum in Davos through a video highlighting our successful, data-driven CUSP program, with support from Datakind, Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth, and the Rockefeller Foundation. She also noted that she attended the graduation ceremony at the National Academic for Security Analysis in El Salvador, and signed an agreement continuing our ongoing strategic partnership.


November 2019: Strategic Plan, Climate Review and Fundraising Updates

John Jay’s Annual Day of Giving, an all-College fundraising campaign engaging the entire John Jay community of administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, and students, was held on Nov. 20. VP of Institutional Advancement Robin Merle reported that over $112,000 had been raised to date to support he Student Emergency Fund, with more gifts coming in until Dec. 6. (The current total is nearly $160,000). She also reported that the College received additional funds for the Immigrant Student Success Center, which will be named after the generous donor Nasser Kazeminy.

Associate Provost Allison Pease, designated chair of the Strategic Planning Subcommittee (SPS), outlined the process to date for developing the College’s Strategic Plan for 2020-2025. In Phase 1, the SPS charged 11 cross-campus research groups to explore the current trends and best practices in higher education, and consider what the opportunities and challenges are for John Jay. Their reports are in the Briefing Book on the Strategic Plan website. From this research, the SPS proposed the following priorities for consideration by the members of the Leadership Council and the entire campus community:

  1. Advance undergraduate and graduate student success through a holistic, student-centered educational model.
  2. Promote diversity, inclusion, equity, access, and cultural competence in the classroom, across the campus, and in post-graduate contexts.
  3. Build financial stability and sustainability including a focus on enrollment, the environment, and space.
  4. Be a leader in justice education, research, and public engagement.
  5. Improve organizational capacity, effectiveness, and excellence by investing in staff, faculty and infrastructure.


These draft goals were discussed at the meeting and she encouraged further feedback via the online feedback form. Based on the collective feedback, the next step in Phase II will be for SPS to recommend a list of priorities to the President.


September and October 2019: Diversity Training

The Point Made Learning (PML) group facilitated sessions for a multi-part diversity training program for the Council that is focused on understanding the importance of equity and inclusion in our daily interactions with students and colleagues. PML’s approach is to educate people through “storytelling, interactive learning, and practical experience with uncomfortable dialogue.”

The fiof the training unfolded in the format of a board game called The American Dream, which is “designed to get players physically, intellectually and emotionally engaged in current issues of inclusion and equity.” This interactive game allowed each participant to play a character whose identity was different from their own. Through a series of situations outlined on “chance cards,” during which they face microaggressions and discrimination, they either advance or fall back in terms of success.

The goal of the game was to help participants become aware of people’s varying experiences, based on race, gender, class, religion, and other factors. The game also helped reveal an individual’s existing blind spots and implicit biases that shape how the participant interacted with others.

PML’s Barb Lee and Lenny Walker led the participants through the series of role-playing experiences to increase awareness and improve understanding of people with identities different than their own. Some of the participants expressed how they had been surprised by some of the experiences, and many felt that the training program gave them a better understanding of societal norms and cultural perspectives.

The second part of the training focused on what happens when someone has misspoken or said something problematic. PML’s workshop “Was It Something I Said?” explored feelings of hurt when someone says something offensive. The goal was to give participants practical tools they can use to make difficult conversations easier, as well as techniques that can be applied to every relationship. It was a difficult discussion for the participants and it became evident that a further session would be needed.

August 2019: Climate Review

The main focus for the August 2019 Leadership Council meeting was to review the draft recommendations from external experts at Working IDEAL. The recommendations will be part of the Climate Review report from Working IDEAL that will be released this fall, and which was developed over the spring semester.  The Report aims to make assessments of what they understand to be our challenges, and give us recommendations for how John Jay can seize opportunities to further strengthen our climate.

 There were seven major themes of the recommendations:

  • Shared Values and Belonging
  • Respectful Learning and Working Environments
  • Expanding and Coordinating Resources for Reporting & Response
  • Communication and Transparency
  • Leadership Development
  • Strategic Capacity and Support
  • Training and Other Resources for Holistic Prevention.


The John Jay community will need to have a lot of discussion about which of these recommendations resonate and which of the things are doable in this year, in three years, in five years.

President Mason introduced Barb Lee and Lenny Walker from Point Made Learning (PML), a group that will be facilitating diversity training for the Council this fall.  In line with the recommendations in the Climate Review Report, PML will also be assisting the College on a pro bono basis to create a common values statement and implementation approach.

“We’re not going to recreate the wheel,” said President Mason. “We already have a strong sense of what our values are. We just need to figure out how to articulate them in a way that’s crystallized, so that we can talk from a common language.”